Twenty years ago, I was told that emerging market shares were like mining stocks. This sounded an unglamorous if not outright demeaning description for one of the greatest growth stories the world was yet to see. But as the fortunes of emerging markets subsequently rose and fell in tandem with commodities, this adage rang more and more true. Two decades of data demonstrate convincingly that, despite their perceived long-term growth attractions, the performance of emerging assets depends primarily on the business cycle.

Every cycle reaches an extreme on the way up and on the way down. Persistent trends create their own mythology and investment fashions. The massive distortion of the financial markets by developed-market central bank intervention caused the long under-performance of value globally. To buy cheap assets is seen as horribly outmoded. Emerging markets are, therefore, “cheap for a reason”. Read more

A survey of recent writings on Russia by western scholars reveals a widely-held view that the largest of the 15 post-Soviet republics has continued to decline in the 21st century.

Yet an examination of the data suggests that Russia has actually risen in comparison with some of its western competitors. Read more

By John Sfakianakis, Gulf Research Center

This week the Saudi cabinet approved the government’s “Vision 2030” and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave his first television interview in order to outline the plans. The 31-one-year old architect of Saudi Arabia’s economic reform program won plaudits for his directness and his bold vision for a post-oil era.

Low oil prices are turning out to be almost a blessing for the oil-dependent kingdom as economic reforms start to gain traction among policy makers. “We will not allow our country ever to be at the mercy of commodity price volatility or external markets,” Prince Mohammed said. “We have developed a case of oil addiction in Saudi Arabia,” he added, naming a truth rarely spoken by Saudi policy makers. Read more

By Jon Harrison and Trey McArver of Trusted Sources

The prospects for structural economic reform in developing Asian nations is being significantly constrained by the problems political leaders are experiencing in implementing their agendas. Conversations over the past month with policymakers and analysts in China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand have brought out common themes on the progress towards sustainable growth and structural improvement.

Governments across the region have had mixed success in boosting growth. All five countries have seen growth decline to levels below that of 2010. External factors have been a major driver of the economic slowdown but domestic conditions have played a part as well. China is slowing due to unavoidable economic rebalancing and is likely to remain a major drag on regional economies for at least the next two years. Read more

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By James Chen, Clearly

From the latest UN data available, the Vision Impact Institute has estimated that there are 2.5bn people in the world who have poor vision, and no means of correcting it. That is not far short of the number of people who live in China, India and Japan, combined.

It is thought that nearly 80 per cent of these cases could be corrected by something as simple as a pair of glasses.

Poor vision is not a life-threatening condition; it falls into a non-urgent category, which puts it low on the priority scale for development funding, often failing to make the list for global health and economic targets. Read more

By Sarah Lain, Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies

The Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) builds on China’s long-standing economic investment in Central Asia, and it has the potential to further develop Central Asian economies. However, China’s historical track record of investment engagement in the region raises concerns that the SREB could instead exacerbate economic inequalities and poor governance.

China has long been a key driver of infrastructure investment and construction in Central Asia, covering a wide range of sectors. It has invested heavily in the region’s natural resource extraction, with gas, oil, uranium, gold and copper making up key exports from the region. Read more

It is incredible to think that just over a century ago, malaria stretched from the Arctic Circle to the southern tips of Africa and South America. Since then, half the world’s countries have eliminated the disease, most in the past 70 years. Countries where malaria remains are making astonishing progress. More than 30 countries, primarily in Latin America, Southern Africa and Asia-Pacific, are working to eliminate it by going from low to no malaria transmission. More than 20 of these countries are on track to end transmission of the disease entirely by 2020, paving the way for the global eradication of malaria within a generation.

The single greatest threat to achieving a malaria-free world is a reduction in funding or political support before the job is done. All too often, malaria programmes are victims of their own success. Malaria-related deaths and illnesses decline, the problem becomes invisible and resources are shifted elsewhere. History shows us that when governments or donors cut funding or close down malaria programmes too soon, the disease comes roaring back. Read more

By Reda El Chaar, Access Power

As President Barack Obama embarks on Thursday on a farewell trip to the UK, thoughts are turning to how the outgoing leader’s legacy is likely to be remembered. To those like me who are engaged in bringing energy to developing nations, the answer is obvious. Mr Obama’s greatest legacy will be his visionary campaign to bring electricity to the people of Africa. Perhaps. Read more

By Philippe Le Corre and Joel Backaler

This year has all signs of becoming another bumper year for Chinese overseas mergers and acquisition activity. In the first three months alone, the total value of cross-border deals nearly reached 2015 annual totals ($101bn and $109bn, respectively).

High-profile deals from the last three months include: Dalian Wanda’s $3.5bn acquisition of Legendary Pictures, a US media company, Haier’s $5.4bn takeover of GE’s appliances unit and most notably ChemChina’s record-setting $43bn bid for Syngenta, a Swiss-based agri-business group.

However, all of this overseas business activity is occurring against a backdrop of a Chinese domestic economy that is facing myriad challenges with a slower GDP growth forecast of 6.5 per cent, reduced domestic demand and decreasing industrial profits not to mention industrial overcapacity. Read more

The global drive to bring the world online, the so-called “connect the unconnected” movement, has gathered significant momentum in the last few years.

This is the result of an emerging consensus that access to the internet is a basic human right and an important tool of economic and social development, enshrined among the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Read more

If death and taxes are life’s only certainties, why do governments in developing countries struggle to collect enough tax?

Take Pakistan. Its tax-to-GDP ratio of 11.5 per cent is among the lowest in the world. The bulk of Pakistan’s tax revenues are collected from corporations, of which less than 30,000 are registered. Despite relatively similar policies and tax rates, Pakistan collects far less revenue than more developed countries. The UK for example has a 39 per cent tax-to-GDP ratio – about average for developed economies. Read more

Every day an estimated 150,000 new Chinese shoppers join the ranks of the hundreds of millions in the country who have discovered ecommerce. Penetration will double by 2020, according to our estimates, with the total value skyrocketing to Rmb 10tn ($1.5tn).

But this dramatic adoption of online shopping is not the biggest news to emerge from Bain & Company’s latest study of China’s ecommerce market, conducted in partnership with AliResearch, Alibaba Group’s research arm. The unexpected finding is how ecommerce is shaping consumer behaviours and the profound influence those shoppers are having on online sellers. Despite its massive growth, China ecommerce is rapidly evolving to become more than a numbers game for both consumers and sellers. Read more

As a sensational criminal case against one of Serbia’s richest men winds towards its conclusion – following the separate sentencing recently of his son to 42 months in prison – the nation’s justice minister is cautioning that the two-year-old government’s progress against corruption should not be measured in indictments and convictions.

“We are building a system for the next 15 years,” Justice Minister Nikola Selaković said in an email exchange. “To build such a system you need time. We have to make sure each institution does its job and we have to give the courts the freedom and independence to do theirs.” Read more

Along with desert fighting in the sub-Saharan Sahel region against government forces, terror groups brimming with arms after Libya’s breakup have struck hotels in capital cities throughout the eight-country French West Africa Economic and Monetary Zone (WAEMU), a grouping with a common central bank and currency, the CFA Franc pegged to the euro.

Cote d’Ivoire beach resorts outside Abidjan were the latest targets, following assaults in Burkina Faso and Mali killing international aid workers and business executives. These countries are enmeshed in their own violent political conflicts, putting the priority on internal as well as external security. But their economic and financial agendas are also urgent and call for “strong resolve”, according to the International Monetary Fund’s March Article IV report. Read more

Last week the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute released its latest figures on world military expenditure, confirming that global defence spending is once again on the rise. Although a real terms increase of 1 per cent appears modest, underneath the headline figure lies a more striking trend: alongside dynamic economic growth in many emerging powers has come a massive expansion in military expenditure over the past decade.

The Brics have led the pack. China’s military spending increased by 169 per cent in the past decade, Russia’s by 112 per cent, India’s by 44 per cent, and Brazil’s by 43 per cent. But others in the G20 are investing at a similarly rapid pace. Saudi Arabia has increased its defence budget by an astonishing 125 per cent over the past decade, and now ranks third on the table of top spenders, despite resorting to international money markets to plug a growing budget deficit. Read more

The sultanate of Oman appears set to play a key role in Iran’s efforts to reintegrate into the regional and global economy. While other Middle Eastern states kept their distance during Iran’s years of isolation, Oman stuck with its longtime trading partner and is now set to reap the benefits, as the two countries move ahead with large-scale joint economic initiatives.

A long-planned $60bn undersea gas pipeline project has been given fresh impetus since sanctions on Iran were lifted earlier this year. The Korea Gas Corporation, a partly state-owned South Korean energy company, is reported to be nearing an agreement to build pipelines that will pump 20m cubic metres of Iranian gas a day to Oman, where it will be converted into Liquefied Natural Gas for international export. Read more

President Muhammadu Buhari can hardly be blamed for all of Nigeria’s woes. He inherited a difficult situation when he was elected a year ago but you have to question how he has responded to the reality of low oil prices.

Pilfering and incompetent politicians have, in large part, accounted for why normal Nigerians haven’t enjoyed the spoils of its vast oil reserves. Around 61 per cent of Nigerians lived on less than a $1 a day in 2010 according to Nigeria’s own statistics agency. The CIA World Factbook put unemployment at nearly 24 per cent in 2011. That’s a problem in any country but particularly in one with such a large, young population looking for a living. Read more

From the horrifying scenes in Ivory Coast, Mali and Brussels to the tragic refugee crisis in Lebanon and on Europe’s borders, it is clear the world is at a crossroads. There are a growing number of conflicts becoming increasingly deadly and protracted. There are more displaced people than at any time since the Second World War, and more people than ever are in need of urgent disaster relief. Extremism is on the rise and the effects of climate change are contributing to new crises. Now, more than ever, the world needs a sustained, coordinated response to these challenges. And when necessity dictates, the international community can act. The Syria donor conference in London this year and the subsequent political momentum seen on the ground in Syria is proof enough. Read more

Today’s World Health Day campaign leaves no doubt as to what it’s all about – comic book heroes smashing through rock, encouraging everyone to stay super and ‘Beat Diabetes!’ The World Health Organisation’s strong branding has done a great job singling out diabetes as a disease that it is eminently possible to tackle and defeat.

It’s a simple message – some might argue, too simple. The focus on eradicating one disease can be misleading at best, dangerous at worst: if we don’t consider diabetes as part of a holistic approach to global health care, are we acting to divert scarce resources away from crucial strengthening of health systems? Read more

Back in 2012, the news of Kenya’s oil discovery spread fast. Stock markets roared, politicians gushed and the Twitterati tweeted. Fast forward to today: with $70 off oil prices and at least another four to five years to go until the first commercial production, one cannot help but ask, has Kenyan oil been overrated?

With a tip of the hat to Clint Eastwood, the prospects for Kenya’s oil wealth can be characterised as the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Read more